Friday, January 14, 2011

Starting Over after "IT"

Many of you out there in the "Internet Realm" who follow my blog don't know me personally, so I feel that it's necessary to give a bit of background before diving into the "heart" of this post.


I started CrossFit about 3 years ago, and progressed on about an "average" level. I was instantly addicted due to the constant improvement across a wide range of movements, and I aspired to one day reach the "Competition" level. I've been competitive and athletic my entire life, so this gave me a new outlet for my competitive spirit to fly free.

I started Weightlifting (in addition to CF) about 2 years ago, and quickly fell in love with it. I'm very flexible and this gave me an advantage in movements like the Snatch. I made "okay" progress over the next year and a half. Nothing spectacular, but steady and consistent progress - so I was happy and content.

My strengths are Weightlifting (Single Reps w/ recovery in between - very different from most CF Weightlifting Conditioning WODS) and lengthy-but-light-weight-MetCons, while my weaknesses are gymnastics movements and lifting heavy weights for more than 1 or 2 reps. (I can lift MUCH more for 1 - 2 reps, or if given time to recover between reps than I can if I were asked to lift a weight multiple times without rest.)

Okay, now for the "meat and potatoes" of this post -

Up until about 8 months ago, I was making steady progress and thriving both mentally and physically on the consistent improvement in most areas. Then "IT" Happened.

"IT" will be different for everyone, but in all cases it's something that happens in your life that sets you back (a little or sometimes a LOT), and you have little to no control over whatever this thing may be.

The "IT" in my life was thyroid problems. My energy levels started to fall, I could no longer go as long or as hard, and some days it took everything I had just to get out of bed. Then, my strength started to decrease, and that was the last straw for me - I marched my butt to the Dr. to find out what in the heck was going on. The diagnosis was an Autonomically functioning Thyroid Nodule. I had a "hyper-thyroid" condition, and the options to fix it were to nuke the nodule w/ radiation or have surgery to remove the nodule along with (at least) half of my thyroid. I opted for the "nuke it" option because there was a better chance that my thyroid would recover long-term and that I wouldn't have to go on Synthroid. I was warned that when they "nuked" the nodule, it would likely also affect my thyroid function for several months, up to a year, and that I would probably become "Hypo" until my thyroid regulated itself. If it failed to regulate itself in an acceptable amount of time, I would have to go on medication to get my Thyroid levels where they needed to be. Sooo, at the end of August, I had my Thyroid "nuked".

Since then, my performance in the gym has continued to decline, but at an even faster rate. I now officially have "hypo-thyroidism", and my levels are getting worse every month (not better).

Initially, I kept a positive attitude. I knew that this was a temporary setback, and as soon as I got "IT" straightened out, everything would return to normal. I suffered through discouraging workout after discouraging workout, but did my best to keep plugging away.

Over the last two months, however, my workout frequency has decreased significantly more. It got so hard (mentally!) to drag myself to the gym when I was no longer seeing steady progress, but was instead seeing a steady decline in my performance and strength. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to throw myself down on the floor and have a temper tantrum. I just wanted to feel better and perform better, and get back to where I was. I felt like I was being forcibly pushed backwards in time to the level I was at when I first started CrossFit and Weightlifting. And I had worked SO HARD for the progress that it was really hard to see it ripped away by "IT".

Every workout, I would compare my results to my previous PR's (set before "IT" happened), and got more and more discouraged - because numbers just don't lie - I was getting worse, not better. My Fran is much slower, I can't string even half the pullups together that I used to be able to, I can't Snatch or C&J my max anymore for even 1 rep, I get winded and have to rest after just a few thrusters or box jumps or burpees.

In addition to all of this, I had FINALLY conquered the HUGE milestones of HS Pushups (off of an abmat) and RX Ring Dips prior to "IT". These are things that I had struggled with and worked on religiously for months and months to get, and was overjoyed when I finally "got" them. I realized about a month ago that I can no longer do either movement. And trust me, it's NOT for lack of giving it everything I had just to try to get 1 single solitary rep. I just am THAT much weaker.

So for the last two months, I've gradually been getting more and more discouraged and it's been harder and harder to force myself to workout because I'm fighting with my own head. I'll tell myself that "I feel GREAT today, and I'm going to kick this workout's butt!" and then 5 minutes into it I realize that I have no energy at all left, and I finish it, look up my previous time, and realize that I got nowhere close to kicking that workout's butt, regardless of my good intentions.

I FINALLY realized just today that I've been my own worst enemy. I've been de-moralizing myself and setting myself up for failure by comparing my Current Performance/Strength Level to my Performance/Strength Level from before "IT". I'm basically comparing apples to oranges, whether I want to admit it or not. I am NOT the same athlete that I was 6 months ago, through no fault of my own - but I need to accept that, re-assess where I am NOW, and try to improve from my current position. That means setting new goals, focusing on the here and now, and forgetting about what I may or may not have been capable of 6 months ago.

What brought on this realization? I was reminded of the Serenity Prayer:

"God, Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and the WISDOM to know the difference."

The realization of what I had been doing hit me like a lightning bolt. I need to trust that I will never be burdened with more than I've been given the ability to handle, and know that everything really does happen for a reason, even if I never figure out just what that reason is.

So I am going to do my best to simply accept that I am where I am in terms of strength and conditioning, and there is absolutely nothing that I can do to change where I am right now at this moment. It's out of my hands.

And while I won't be able to change my performance & strength levels overnight, or return them instantaneously to where they used to be, I do have the ability to change my the way that I look at the situation, my focus, and my goals.

So over the next month, I am going to update my "Current 1RM" and all of my performance measurement metrics so that they reflect where I am right now. I will no longer refer to any of my previous benchmarks in my training logs or on my website because that was the past, and this is the present, and I need to stop dwelling on the past if I ever want to be able to move forward.

Going forward, I will measure my progress against these current numbers, rather than where I was when I was at my "peak" 6 months ago. I hope that this shift in the way that I look at things will help me to be less discouraged at the end of my workouts, and to appreciate that I still have the ability to do the things that I love, even if I may not be able to (presently) do them as well as I used to. And that's okay with me!

So if you have recently faced a setback as a result of an "IT" in your life, it may help if you stop dwelling on the past, re-evaluate where you are in the present, and make goals & plans for the future based on your current situation. Whatever the "IT" is in your life that may have sidelined or de-railed you - You can overcome it if you are able to stop focusing on how things were before "IT", accept how things are now, and move forward from your current position.

I'll end this post with one of my favorite quotes:

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude,
to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the
education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than
what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance,
giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The
remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will
embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact
that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only
thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I
am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.
And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
~Charles R.

And now, after that HEAVY post, here's a little something to make you Smile before you leave! (Cause who doesn't love cute puppies?!?)


Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan said...

Oh, sugar! I'm sorry to read this news, but I'm also really SUPER-DUPER proud of you for being kind to yourself. YOU are very strong -- your body is just going through some stuff right now. Trust that you will feel better and will return to previous strength and endurance levels... it's just going to take more time to get your Synthroid does firing.

I was going through old posts on my blog recently and was smacked in the face with how totally lousy I felt last year at this time -- because I didn't know that my thyroid had conked out and that I was totally hypothyroid. I distinctly remember trying to do a 3-mile run (my usual no-brainer, this is easy, play workout) and I couldn't run. At all. After 5 minutes, I was sobbing and wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Here's a post that describes the confusion and blues:

Fast forward a year... this week, my workouts have been really good... but it's taken almost a year to get my dose straightened out. I haven't felt terrible in months, but I did feel "only OK" for a while, 'til we got me on the right dose.

The great news is that you already have your diet dialed in and you know what you're capable of doing when you're totally healthy -- and you will get back to totally healthy.

I'm sending you an internet hug right now. I felt very discouraged about body when it was fighting me, so I empathize with where you are right now.

Just continue to take care of yourself with good food, workout when you can, rest when you need to, and trust that your body will get back on track as soon as it can.

Email me if you want to talk privately.


Christie said...

Thanks so much Mel - as usual - you are spot on!

The GOOD news is that I really am feeling much better :) I know that I have the squeaky clean food in part to thank for that!

I guess that is why I was getting so frustrated - I turned the corner and am finally feeling so much better, but my performance still deosn't even come close to comparing to where it was. I'm in awe at how much pure strength that I've lost - and I know that is just one of those things that it will take me time to build again - and I really am okay with that now that I've sat myself down and had a talking-to with my "Type-A, Perfectionist, Super-Competitive side"!

It just took me realizing that I have GOT to stop comparing where I am now to where I was then, or I'd drive myself batty!

So here's to onward and upward from my new and improved starting point :)

**And did I mention that I'm Uber happy for YOU that you're body is finally starting to "play nice" instead of fighting you?!**

Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan said...

Your attitude is a) awesome and b) a great lesson for all of us. We just ALL need to accept where we are and work our asses off :-)

Man! The "IT" in life can really knock us down. But as long as we get up one more time than we get knocked down, we're golden.

Monique said...

I have missed you so much at crossfit. You were always there to push me (even if you didn"t know you were). It's been really different without you there. I am and always have been in total awe of you! You really rock! You will get there..I have no doubt. Once you put your mind to it nothing is going to get in your way!
Keep fighting lady!

Doctor Err said...

I love your blog and am tickled to have recently found it. I'm a crossfitter of about a year and cavewoman for about 8 months. I'm sidelined with a hip injury and this post was wonderful! Thank you for sharing!

Christie said...

Monique - I so TOTALLY miss seeing you in the mornings too! It seems that every day I manage to get there for a 5:30am class, you're either out of town or on a rest day, so we keep missing each other! Thanks so much for your encouragement - I really do appreciate it :) And we're still down for that run in February for sure!

Dr. Err - I hope you're on the mend, and thanks for leaving some feedback :)

Joshie - I was referred to an endocronologist before any action was taken, and they ran a full blood panel, and all of my mineral levels came back in "optimum" ranges. In fact, the Docs couldn't believe how perfect my blood panel was, of course w/ the exception of my Thyroid levels. (Thank you Paleo Diet!)

FNAB is not a treatment for nodules, but rather a procedure where they remove a small portion of the tissue, and biopsy to check for cancer. I did have this procedure done before deciding between the radioactive iodine and the surgery, because if the nodule had cancerous or pre-cancerous cells, they would have had to remove it surgically. Fortunately, there was no sign of cancer :)

As to why the nodules formed, the doctors weren't sure - I do know that thyroid problems and autoimmune disease run strongly on my mom's side of the family, so it could be some kind of genetic factor, but at this point, it really doesn't matter - it wasn't something as simple as a mineral deficiency that could be easily corrected, so the options for fixing it were what they were. That is in the past, and right now I'm just focusing on the present/future :)

Joshkie said...

Thank you, See I know just enoght to be dangerous.

FNAB, I know its not a treatment its a type of biopsy.

Bad experience, I let cloud my judgement and I read to mutch.

Thanks for being patient with me. This is what happens when I come in at the end of a story with out all the details.

Joshkie said...

Sorry. It is in the past. It is what it is.

Your trying to move on and I'm being an idiot rehashing old stuff... sigh.


Joshkie said...

Removed posts of the past on with the getting stronger and healthier.


Lezlie said...

It was great to meet you at the Whole9 workshop in Houston. I had my first cup of coffee with coconut milk this morning :) Your post was a great reminder that there are sometimes things in life (including our training) that are out of our control. I wish you the best in finding a new norm as you continue to chase your dreams.

Christie said...

Lezlie - It was so great to meet you as well! What did you think of the coconut milk in your coffee? I've found most people either think it's great or really don't like it at all - there doesn't seem to be much of a happy medium.

Joshkie - No worries! The intent behind your comments was helpful and I recognized that :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so very much for this post. I have been a crossfit gal for 2 years and I loved how strong it made me feel! Then my own "it" happened and nothing seems the same anymore... I cannot lift heavy, run or do many wods I used to enjoy. I've been struggling with berating myself and trying to work out. Your blog stated everything I've been feeling!
I too shall shift all my previous benchmarks and start new. I will keep the serenity prayer in mind and take each workout one day at a time!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Christie said...

Anonymous - I hope that this post helps you to avoid being too hard on yourself - I still struggle with not beating myself up over my perceived shortcomings from time to time (I have a Type A++ personality and am always hard on myself regardless of the situation), but I feel much better now that I've started fresh without the pressure of all of my "Old #'s" hanging over my head :)

I was so angry because CrossFit and Weightlifting had gone from being something that I thoroughly enjoyed and an "outlet" for me to something that I almost dreaded and made me feel small and weak. But I refuse to let "It" steal my "happy place". I'm working to reclaim it, and I hope you are successful in doing the same!